Saturated fats and trans fats not equal when it comes to heart disease

By Rebecca Burton • Published: November 25th, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

As a consumer, most of us hear experts describing fats as “good” or “bad.” Often times, trans fats and saturated fats get thrown into the “bad” category. However, researchers have found that when it comes to heart disease, stroke or Type 2 diabetes, saturated fats may not be the culprit after all.

A systematic review published in the journal BMJ analyzed findings from 72 currently available observational studies and found that while trans fats can lead to a higher risk of heart disease and other complications, saturated fats do not.

Saturated fats, for the most part, come from meat, eggs, butter, milk and salmon and account for about 10 percent of energy in the North American diet. Trans fats are produced from plant oils and are commonly found in margarine, packaged baked goods and snack foods. These account for about 1 to 2 percent of energy in the North American diet.

In the studies analyzed, trans fats were associated with a 21 percent increase in the risk of developing heart disease and a 28 percent increase in the risk of death from heart disease.

Currently, experts recommend limiting saturated fat consumption to less than 10 percent of daily energy intake to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. They also recommend limiting trans fats to less than 1 percent of daily energy intake. However, these findings show that the current guidelines limiting saturated fats could be unnecessary. The authors of the study suggest dietary guidelines must take into considerations what alternatives people will use in place of saturated fats — such as trans fats, for example.

The authors added that further research is needed to validate their findings. In the meantime, doctors still recommend exercising and eating a balanced diet with fruits, veggies, grains and protein to ensure optimal health.